“Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Those are the admonitions for Advent from St. John the Baptist. These are a true wake-up call to make a good confession during Advent, especially for the people who have not confessed for years. The Baptist sounds like we need to be the driver of a bulldozer to uproot all our sins—big and small! That’s the confessional scene—as needed by both saints and sinners.
The Hebrews of Isaiah’s period (800 BC) yearned for an ideal leader, a king who could and would restore the nation of Israel. Jesus Christ is that God-given leader who came to establish “a kingdom of justice, love and peace.” Such an ideal society of Jesus will never be realized in our world. But certainly society would be much better if all God’s people would follow his guiding principal. And we Catholics should set the good example. St. Paul says we should work toward that impossible dream of Isaiah where “the wolf is a guest of the lamb.” Thus, “preparing the way of the Lord” may require a change in our lifestyle. St. Matthew even depicts Jesus with a “winnowing fan” to clear the threshing floor where the chaff will be burned up. Wow! Sounds like Jesus means business. He’s not playing “softball” with us.
John the Baptist is the great Advent preacher of repentance. As a humble eccentric desert man, he attracted large crowds. The people tasted his honesty, even though he was challenging them to reform—to repent! To repent truly means to feel sorry for what I have done and not done to the point of deciding to really change. Yes, it means to take a new viewpoint on a new attitude. It’s a turning or returning to God!
Last week’s homily could be summarized in one word: “prepare.” Today it’s “repent.” Repent means far more than prepare. Repent goes to the interior whereas prepare might look much more to the exterior, like preparing thru Christmas shopping, decorating the home and tree, baking cookies, and sending cards (none of which are bad). John the Baptist said we have to be like the fruit tree that is productive. We need to live a good life and produce good works, even great works. The Book of Revelation tells us our good works are the only thing we can and will take with us after death. So we need to heed the words of the Baptist: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
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Fr. Harry Brown, C.PP.S., is in ministry at the Sorrowful Mother Shrine in Bellevue, Ohio.